Former Leader of Hindu Temple of Georgia Sentenced to Prison for Fraud and Obstruction
ATLANTA—Annamalai Annamalai, a/k/a Dr. Commander Selvam, a/k/a Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar, the former leader of the now defunct Hindu Temple of Georgia, has been sentenced to 27 years, three months in prison following his conviction on 34 felony counts, including bank fraud, tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and obstruction charges.
“Annamalai perverted the sacred institution of religion by using it as a vehicle for greed and personal profit,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John A. Horn. “He convinced his victims that they had a problem in need of spiritual guidance, and then took advantage of their vulnerabilities for personal financial gain. The sentence rendered against him is lengthy but just and fair considering the irreparable harm he caused to his victims.”
“Annamalai Annamalai, a self-proclaimed “child prodigy” and “priest,” received his fate today for the fraud that he perpetrated on the faithful followers that believed in him,” stated Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “This defendant utilized the nation’s financial system to steal money from unsuspecting victims and then used the money for his own personal benefit. This sentence is a vital element in maintaining public confidence in our legal and financial system.”
According to Acting United States Attorney Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Annamalai generated income through the Hindu Temple of Georgia (“the Hindu Temple”) by charging fees to his followers in exchange for providing spiritual or related services. In a typical transaction, a follower agreed to purchase a particular service for a communicated price, and provided a credit card number by telephone to guarantee payment. Annamalai caused the followers’ credit card numbers to be charged on multiple occasions, in excess of their agreed amount and without authorization.
If the followers disputed the charges with their respective credit card companies, Annamalai submitted false documentation to the credit card companies in support of the unauthorized charges. Annamalai later filed spurious lawsuits against followers who disputed his charges and manipulated audio recordings to make it sound as if the followers had agreed to the disputed charges. Annamalai caused these manipulated audio recordings to be submitted to police departments investigating criminal complaints that were lodged against him.
The income generated by the Hindu Temple through these credit card charges was used to fund the personal lifestyle of Annamalai and his family, who owned or controlled numerous homes and real properties, luxury vehicles, and foreign bank accounts in India.
Following a two-week jury trial, Annamalai was convicted on August 25, 2014, for bank fraud and tax fraud offenses. Annamalai was also convicted of bankruptcy fraud offenses in connection with the Hindu Temple’s petition for bankruptcy protection in August 2009. Annamalai concealed assets from creditors and others by diverting credit card receipts and donations intended for the Hindu Temple to a bank account in the name of a different entity. Annamalai was also convicted of money laundering for using proceeds from the bankruptcy fraud to pay mortgages on properties that he owned, and payments to himself.
Annamalai was also convicted on three counts of obstruction and false statements in connection with the grand jury investigation and the bankruptcy proceeding. Annamalai transmitted a fraudulent e-mail to an IRS Special Agent, which was falsely made to appear as if the e-mail had been written and authored by a witness of the criminal investigation. Annamalai submitted a false affidavit to the grand jury, and a false affidavit to the Bankruptcy Court in connection with the Hindu Temple’s bankruptcy proceeding.
Finally, Annamalai was convicted of conspiring with his spouse and others to conceal the arrest of co-defendant Kumar Chinnathambi.
Annamalai Annamalai, 49, of Baytown, Texas, was sentenced to 27 years, three months in prison.
Chinnathambi, 34, of Baytown, Texas, was later arrested and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud on July 17, 2014. He will be sentenced at a later date.
In addition to Annamalai’s prison sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. also ordered Annamalai to not engage in any spiritual service for compensation, directly or indirectly through intermediaries; and to not file frivolous, abusive, or malicious lawsuits against (1) former customers of the Hindu Temple and related entities, and victims of his criminal schemes; (2) parties, creditors, the Trustee, lawyers, or court personnel involved in the Hindu Temple’s bankruptcy case; and (3) attorneys, government agents, the jury, and court personnel involved in the criminal case. Judge Batten also recommended to the Bureau of Prisons that Annamalai be housed in a “Communications Management Housing Unit,” which is a special facility that will be able to monitor Annamalai’s telephone calls and electronic communications from prison.
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, with valuable assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Steven D. Grimberg and Samir Kaushal prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.Pressefirstname.lastname@example.org or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.